Review: The Biographer

by Lynn on May 16, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Videofag, 187   Augusta Avenue, Toronto. Written by Daniel Karasik. Directed by Alan Dilworth. Designed by Jung-Hye Kim. Lighting by André du Toit. Sound/music by Thomas Ryder Payne. Starring: Stewart Arnott, Miriam Fernandes and Earl Pastko.

Produced by Tango Co. and plays until May 19.

Franz is a mysterious man. He is roused from his sleep on the beach by the Clown playing the cello. They are close to a deserted amusement park.  Franz is looking for his daughter, Laura, whom he hasn’t seen for years because he’s been in prison.  He has just been released.  He carries a long knife for protection I guess.

The Clown says that Laura was there but left. There are hints that a lot of young women were attracted to the deserted amusement park. Perhaps the Clown is a pimp and the young women are prostitutes. Franz finds a young woman, unconscious, on the beach. He thinks she is his daughter. He shakes her, willing her to revive. She finally coughs and sputters to consciousness. She has tried to drown herself. She is not Franz’s daughter but she might be. She comes on to Franz. He is repelled, but attracted.

The Clown suggests that the Biographer, a rich man who lives on that hill over there, might know where Laura is. The Biographer is more mysterious than Franz, and dangerous in his very quiet, elegant way. He doesn’t know where Laura is, but you get the sense that he does and isn’t talking. A woman appears at the end. Is it Laura? Maybe. We are told her name is Delilah.

Daniel Karasik is a prolific writer. He writes plays, winning the Canadian Jewish Playwriting award for his play Haunted. He writes poetry and short stories. The Biographer seems to be Karasik’s attempt at writing something reminiscent of Samuel Beckett—the dialogue is spare and often philosophical; there is a mystery about who these strange people are; is one of these women Franz’s daughter? Who is the Biographer?

But the thing with Beckett is that for all the spareness in his dialogue his plays are rich in consequence and subtext. That is not the case with Karasik. The effort to be profound is obvious without the profundity. Instead of clear subtext we have confusion.

Director Alan Dilworth creates the cramped world of that play. The floor is covered with sand. For some reason Jung-Hye Kim’s set of a runway of sorts, bisects the audience. Dilworth has mixed results with his cast. While Earl Pastko as Franz is tall, imposing and quiet speaking, he is one dimensional and not at all a man with a sense of danger.  Stewart Arnott on the other hand plays The Clown, the Biographer and the Strongman, each with a different sense of danger and stillness that is compelling. As Delilah Laura Miriam Fernandes is both sweet and street smart.

As I have seen elsewhere, Daniel Karasik has the gift for writing. But in the cast of The Biographer, I go to Samuel Beckett for final words: “Try again, fail better.”

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